“Polonka”
Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities
in Poland, Volume VIII

(Poland)

53°09' / 25°43'

Translation of “Polonka” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem


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Acknowledgments

Project Coordinator

Carol Hoffman

 

Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem for permission
to put this material on the JewishGen web site.

This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland,
Volume VIII Districts Vilna, Bialystok, Nowogrodek. Editor Shmuel Spector,
co-editor Bracha Freundlich, page 520. Published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 2005


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[Page 520]

Polonka
(Novogroduk District)

Translated by Carol Hoffman

YearTotal
Population
Jews
1765-124*
1897645549
1921440206

*payers of head tax in Polonka and area community

 

Small town about 20 kilometers west of Baranavichi [in Belarus after 1941], on railway tracts of Bialystok-Baranavichi. Polonka was famous in Polish history for two important battles – in 1506 King Alexander Jagiello crushed the Tatar invasion, and in 1660 the Czamiecki and Sapieha armies defeated Russia. At the end of the 18th century the area was annexed to Russian Empire, Minsk division of the Novogrudok district. After World War I it was part of independent Poland. At the beginning of World War II it was annexed to the Soviet Union (September 1939 to end of June 1941) and then captured by Nazi Germany. In the summer of 1944 the Soviet army freed Polonka.

Polonka is first mentioned in 1623 “Pinkas State of Lithuania” in regards to taxation, however it appears that Jews were already living there in the middle of the 16th century by invitation of Radzville Princedom. Following the Chmielnicki Uprising of 1648/49 the “State Committee” gave the Polonka community reduced taxes because of their lessening numbers. In 1673 the committee budgeted the building of a synagogue. By the 19th century Polonka's Jewish population was as it's greatest with some 550 (85% of the total population of the town).

Even after World War I Jews remained as the majority in the town. Most of them were small tradesmen or craftsmen, especially furniture carpenters. The Jewish cabinet makers enjoyed a fine reputation in the area. Two Jews owned the flour mill on the river. The community had a religious school, cemetery and library; and charitable organizations such as “Linat Zedek” and “Kupat Gm”ach” operated there. Following War War I Polonka's Rabbi Pinhas Rozovsky moved to Shvientziani, and in 1925 he was replaced by Rabbi Shabtai Alpert.

The Red army entered Polonka in September 1939, and Polonka became part of the Soviet Belarusian Republic. The economy, public life and education systems changed considerably. On 26 June 1941 Germans captured Polonka. German soldiers who passed through were directed to the Jewish homes. They raided and destroyed the homes, taking with them the livestock and chickens. Special notices were posted to the Jews forbidding them to leave the town or conduct any commerce. Trading with farmers was a severe violation. In September 1941 a civil German government was established in Belarus, and the Jews were ordered to chose a “Judenrat”. His job was to find workers for forced labor, collect money and valuables as ransom to the Germans and to fulfill the rest of their directives. Young Jews worked hard labor outside of the town, some in agriculture.

During the first months of captivity many Jews were killed in various accidents. The “SS” came to Polonka and executed Jews for Communist activities, amongst them an entire family. The “Judenrat” was told to enlist 17 men to dig ditches to bury them, and they too were murdered. Once another group of Jews was murdered. One woman managed to get out of the ditch, wounded; she asked for help at the first house she found, but the owners called for the Belarusian police who returned her to the ditch and murdered her.

A ghetto was established in Polonka, and the condition of the Jews worsened. On Shabbat, 18 April 1942, German soldiers and local police rounded up 300 locales, old and young and murdered them a few hundred meters from Polonka. Amongst those murdered were the cantor, the ritual slaughterer, and the old wife of the Rabbi. In June 1942 farmers from nearby villages were recruited to dig a large deep hole, according to the Germans for the purpose of the harvest. The Jews understood that this hole was for them, and the young people called to the Ghetto leadership to escape into the forest; but they met with strong opposition for fear that the Germans would take revenge on the remaining Jews and also because many believed the promise of Rabbi Stolobitzia that soon a miracle would save the Jews. On 12 August 1942 early in the morning the “SS”, German police and Belarus police surrounded the town. Some 10 young people escaped into the forest and joined the partisans. The rest of the Jews were gathered together, taken to an enormous hole that was dug near Polonka, were shot and thrown into the hole. Germans and police helpers searched from house to house for people hiding, and if caught they were shot on the spot. Amongst those murdered on that day 7 children were taken to monasteries.

Summer 1944 the Soviet army liberated Polonka and area. Known are 4 survivors.


Aleph Yud Vav Shin [Archive Yad Vashem] Jerusalem MI/E/806, 955; 017/43; 033/1791
Dubonov, Pinkas State of Lithuania


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